Monday, December 31, 2007

omar, circa grade 1

while digging through old boxes at my parents' home, i found this classic depiction of the four season by your's truly, circa grade 1. notice my lack of drawing talent. and what exactly is fall? a green circle? notice that the missing season, summer, is really "yellow" to me.

i've also interpreted what i meant in the final paragraph. it says: "i like fall because i can jop in the leaves" where "jop" i believe equals "jump." anyway, a fun stroll down memory lane.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

i sewed on a button

woohoo i sewed on a button. i haven't sewn in a very long time, mainly because (1) it was so traumatic when i took home ec back in grade school and (2) i haven't really had the need. yes, in grades 6-8, i took unified arts, a class divided into 3 sections: woodworking, arts and crafts, and home economics. i loved woodworking and arts and crafts (well, "love" might be a strong word for arts and crafts) but i loathed home economics. the teacher, ms. donovan, had some pretty strange rules, like no salt *AT ALL* in any dish. if the recipe called for salt, you'd skip it. we produced some bland, bland dishes.

the home ec final sewing project required us to sew a complicated pattern and create something wonderful. being into basketball at the time, i chose to sew a plush basketball. it was supposed to turn out something like this:

but instead it turned out looking more like a deformed pumpkin. i think ms donovan, with her sense of humor, told me that it was the most original plush basketball she had ever seen. i tried to find it in my parents' house so i could share with you, dear reader. but alas, it seems to have bounced off (or maybe it was mistakenly carved).

ANYWAY, sewing. so i needed to sew a button on a jacket. what did i do? i went to my good friend youtube and found this video:

it was exactly what i needed. my button is back in service.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Audio of "This Is Just to Say"

for those of you that like to hear poetry, here's "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams (posted previously), read by the author himself.

Friday, December 21, 2007

sick but with poetry

i am sick. but i have poetry. i've been reading a new anthology i purchased recently. many of the poems have really moved me, but i'll start out with some humor:

This Is Just to Say, by William Carlos Williams (1934)

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

and in the same anthology the editor posts a poem in response:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams, by Kenneth Koch (1962)

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

british hoodlums, 1892

search for british hoodlum on google and look at the first result (i know this result will change.. but here's how it is circa dec 18,2007). what rubbish! the nytimes' historic content is jumping to the top, riding the nytimes pagerank, but it's quite irrelevant.

that being said, the result, an article from 1892 on cheerful british hoodlums savagely beating innocent moslem's in liverpool is an interesting, if sad, historic read. i never really thought about the muslim population in england in the 19th century. that must've been tough (well, the article shows that clearly it was). anyway, here's one quote:
The matter has been reported to the police authorities here and also to the Ottoman Embassy in London. The representatives of the latter have expressed great indignation that the unoffending Moslems in Liverpool should be subjected to such savagery, and it is hoped that the brutal fellows who have perpetrated these outrages will be apprehended and meet with the punishment they so richly deserve.
woo. that's a sentence! you'll not see something like that in today's new york times.

Monday, December 17, 2007

if you drink only one beer this winter..

have it be the anderson valley winer solstice. it is like drinking a creamy cheese, in a good way. the bitterness is very mild, which is how i like it. we found this brew at toranado's, but you can buy it at bevmo.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

do what you want. ask why later. or don't

as i told grant: "ok i'm just going to post my lame meta post that's me reflecting on the post i won't post." so here:

do you ever destroy things when you start to think why?

i had written this post on a fun memory i have about dancing. pure fun, a fond thing to look back to..

but then i dig and dig and dig and things pop out and suddenly i'm like, wait, maybe this memory isn't so perfect. stop asking why omar, just enjoy....?

and i do the same thing with things i plan to do.. "so why do you want to do this event omar? what if X, what if Y, what if ..?"

dear god if i could just switch that off, occasionally (and no, don't tell me to drink, that's not what i'm saying!) what fun it might be. oh but look i'm questioning already bah bah bah

Saturday, December 15, 2007

ridiculous photos

i had to give a presentation recently, and we were told to dress to impress. so i put on a sweater with horizontal stripes that widened me out, and put that on top of a pretty yellow dress shirt. then i looked ridiculous for some photos:

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Monday, December 10, 2007

the power of a scent

i cannot get enough of this book, my name is red (see my previous post). in the chapter i just read a gossip-monger discusses the finer points of interpreting a letter between former lovers that, at least in written form, suggests the man should stop visiting the woman's father's home (she writes "It'd be best if you stopped coming to our house completely.")

the gossip-monger, illiterate but attuned to social ways, then discusses the finer analysis of letters. she writes many points, but here is the one that stuck with me:

Furthermore, the smell of the letter confirms [the love letter] interpretation. The fragrance was faint enough to be ambiguous -- did she intentionally perfume the letter?--yet alluring enough to fire readers' curiosity--is this the aroma of attar or the smell of her hand? And a fragrance, which was enough to enrapture the poor man who read the letter to me, will surely have the same effect on Black [the former lover].
many years ago (again i excavate, deep into my memories) a friend gave me a book that she had spilled COPIOUS amounts of perfume on. she apologized profusely. but what a treat to return to that book months and years after and still have the smell and associated memories. my brain is a smell-memory powerhouse. i remember how disappointed i was when perhaps 7 years after the perfume spill the book had finally no trace of the scent. sometimes i smell the scent again, when i wander, and it always puts me right back to those playful days.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

imagination, the beautiful danger

many, many years ago i had a crush. oh to have a crush. to imagine the other, so perfect and wonderful. sometimes i think i should really love my imagination more than anything or anyone, because it can play such tricks with me, and i do love a good trick. in this case, i met this person again, years after the crush had faded, and all i could wonder was "what were you thinking, imaginative omar?" likely this has happened to you too!

but at the time, what a soothing balm. i remember a crush once got me through a boring, lazy summer at the cottage (along with drivel about elves by terry brooks). i'm coming around to the feeling that a crush, or strange inflation, is a carrot my imagination dangles in front of me, and i leap and grab and almost have my arms around the crush, to crush its foolishness, when my imaginations pulls up, and i fall back into the water, to come around for a yet higher leap, thrashing and looking increasingly comical, a fish out of water. so then, imagination, to what end do you employ this carrot?

orhan pamuk, a wonderful writer, gives me a hint in his book "my name is red":
[Shekure's face] was thin, though her chin was longer than what I remembered. So, then the mouth of my beloved was surely smaller and narrower than I imagined it to be. For a dozen years, as I ventured from city to city, I'd widened Shekure's mouth out of desire and had imagined her lips to be more pert, fleshy and irresistible, like a large, shiny cherry.

Had I taken Shekure's portrait with me, rendered in the style of the Venetian masters, I wouldn't have felt such loss during my long travels when I could scarcely remember my beloved, whose face I'd left somewhere behind me. For if a lover's face survives emblazoned on your heart, the world is still your home.

here is a graph giving my own interpretation of this passage (using the google charts API!):

the red X denotes the sweet spot. that's where you want to let reality take over. in the novel, perhaps that's when the character needed a portrait, and not his imagination. the odd thing is that a portrait, if sufficiently real, can halt a person, in the viewer's eyes, and then be its own bag of worms.

ok. of course i'm being a bit facetious with the graph. i just wish i had a better check on my imagination and its wily ways. you think i should be able to control it -- but you don't know it personally, now do you?

ps my friend lara has a great post on crushes that you keep in your back pocket. check it out, though i warn you that the color scheme is not for the faint-hearted.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

driving tired

yesterday was the google holiday party. it was actually decently sized, not like oversize-06, and i ran into a number of people i knew and hadn't seen in some time. that was nice.

but. i was also the designated driver back up to san francisco. that was just plain scary for the last 5 minutes or so. i was far too tired. i told myself i would never drive when i'm that tired but i did, which was pretty dumb. it's that tiredness where you're dozing off for just a few moments. but those few moments can be so dangerous. luckily it was only right at the end-- i slapped myself a few times, and continued on.

when i drove to montreal a few times the same thing would happen to me near the end. what complete torture. when that started, i went on red bull, and i will swear by that stuff for distance driving. i don't drink energy drinks otherwise.. i don't want to become immune to their powers. i remember my mind going a mile a minute and my pulse racing. hmm, that doesn't sound healthy, but i made it to montreal, in the rain and snow and drudgery of fall and winter.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

a good laugh

gosh my posts lately have been too serious. to lighten the mood: i'm doing some work on climate change response on the berkeley campus. this new yorker cartoon made me smile:

Monday, December 03, 2007

locked-in syndrome

i am a somewhat claustrophobic person. plus i've been a bit distressed by recent developments in my life. while riding on the bart, these two things caught up with me quite alarmingly. i almost threw up and had to get off the subway for fear of being enclosed in the car. what prompted this was the following review, from a recent issue of the new yorker:

[The Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”] is about an unlucky man—Jean-Dominique Bauby, the real-life editor of French Elle, who, in 1995, at the age of forty-three, suffered a massive stroke. Lying speechless and outraged in a hospital near Calais, a victim of “locked-in syndrome,” Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) was restored to full mental clarity but could move nothing but his left eye. Yet Schnabel’s movie, based on the calm and exquisite little book that Bauby wrote in the hospital, is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies.

At first, we see only what Bauby sees—a blur of faces floating into view in fearsome closeup, like deep-sea monsters. Consciousness arrives: the blurs solidify into clear images of doctors and nurses and the surprisingly beautiful d├ęcor of Bauby’s cell—a turquoise-colored hospital room, with a curtain flapping in the breeze. Bauby’s Cyclopean gaze swings wildly from one place to another, and visitors, embarrassed and grief-stricken, pass in and out of his vision, which operates as a kind of microscope peering into the soul of whoever comes into its view. The doctors offer diagnoses and reassurances; Bauby is caressed, shoved, lifted, held, deposited, and washed with hands both rough and gentle, and, through all this, we hear his thoughts on the soundtrack—baffled and angry at first, then bitter (he faintly enjoys the black comedy of his situation), and, finally, soulful and eloquent. Ronald Harwood, adapting the text, has made Bauby’s complex internal life fully expressive, and Schnabel fleshes out brief descriptions of therapists and visitors into major psychological portraits. The movie, which was shot by the great Janusz Kaminski (Spielberg’s cinematographer), more than fulfills the promise of the sultry early scenes in Schnabel’s previous picture, “Before Night Falls.” Bauby’s book is concise and lyrical; the film is expansive and sensual, pungent and funny—a much larger experience. The impossible subject has yielded a feast of moviemaking.

and on it goes. find the whole article here. hopefully it doesn't have such a strong impact on you (luckily i doubt you'll be reading this inside a subway car in a dark station). i still haven't decided on whether i'll see the movie or not.